RENTON, Wash. – After an injury-shortened rookie year, running back Chris Carson spent his second season with the Seattle Seahawks proving he is a legitimate bruiser who can be a primary ball carrier.
Despite rushing for more than 1,100 yards, however, there is a good chance Carson will find himself sharing the workload this season with second-year back Rashaad Penny. And Carson sounds just fine with that.
“We got a lot of guys that can do a lot of different things,” Carson said. “We complement each other really well so it’s just great to have that kind of depth.”
Carson is still going to be the headliner in an offense that is expected to run the ball as much as any team in the league, if not more. But last year’s first-round pick, Penny, appears primed for a potential breakout season as Carson’s complement.
A year ago, Seattle averaged 160 yards per game on the ground to lead the NFL, going against a league-wide trend.
“You can say that the running back position and the running game have been devalued,” Carson said. “I’m just glad it’s not here, you know what I’m saying? I’m glad that they really utilize the running game a lot.”
Carson rushed for 1,151 yards and nine touchdowns last season. His 247 rushing attempts were seventh in the league, but he missed two games with minor injuries, highlighting the need for depth.
That’s where Penny could get his chance, and he appears to have put in the work during the offseason to deserve additional carries. His rookie season hit a bump early when he broke a finger during training camp and the recovery seemed to stunt much of his development. It was the first significant injury Penny had suffered.
“It messed me up mentally. It took a toll on me,” Penny said. “I think it was a huge step of my rookie year – getting hurt, not participating in practice, losing that speed, losing that edge, losing that aggressiveness and attack on how I was presenting myself last year.”
It wasn’t until the second half of the season – including a memorable game in a loss to the Rams where he rushed for 108 yards – that Penny finally started to become a factor. The game against the Rams was a brief glimpse of what the Seahawks believe they will see out of him.
“Rashaad came back with his weight in a place, where his body fat was way down from what it was before,” coach Pete Carroll said. “He had a great offseason, he’s stronger and faster than he’s been. He looks really, really good right now. We are really excited about it.”
One area where Seattle would like to see more production from Carson and Penny is in the passing game. Carson had 20 receptions and Penny had just nine last season, while now departed third-down back Mike Davis got most of the receptions among the running backs. The Seahawks believe the combo of Carson and Penny can make up for the 34 receptions Davis had last season. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said roughly 50 targets for Carson would be a reasonable goal.
“People are understanding that getting the ball to your backs in space in the passing game is a good thing,” Schottenheimer said. “They’re still as elusive as they are running the ball, so when you get them the ball out in space in the passing game it’s the same problem for the defense. They have to make those plays out in space on really good athletes.”
NOTES: Seattle held its final public practice Thursday. Among those returning to action after sitting out due to minor injuries were TE Jacob Hollister (groin), RB Travis Homer (quad), RB C.J. Prosise (hip) and RB/WR J.D. McKissic (foot).
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